Blood Covenants

By | 13 Oct 2010
Abraham and Isaac on Mt Moriah

I have consistently taken the stand that the God of the Bible does not go around killing His children, inflicting them with diseases, or causing disasters.

Many people contest this claim, asking, “Well, what about the Old Testament?”

Whole books have been written about this; I’m not going to delve into the subject in near that kind of depth because the answers aren’t that complicated once you understand some principles from Scripture. It was once said that, “The Bible is shallow enough for the simple to come and drink and deep enough for theologians to drown in.” I’m going to approach this question from the shallow end of the pool. 🙂

What is a Blood Covenant?

The concept of blood covenant is both ancient and 100% biblical. There are many examples of people entering in covenant relationships with one another in the Old Testament. The covenant between the soon-to-be-king David and Saul’s son Jonathan is but one that comes to mind.

By far the single most important covenant relationship in the OT is the one between God and Abraham. Why? It is this covenant that forms the very foundation for our redemption in the finished work of Jesus Christ centuries later.

The details of how covenants were established is not the important factor here — the results, benefits, and penalties involved in a covenant is. When two people entered into covenant with one another, each was pledging that all their own goods, family, and wealth were at the complete disposal of the other party and to each party’s descendants forever. We see this echoed in the marriage covenant to this day: all the earthly goods of the husband and wife become mutual (community) property — at least in most states and in the absence of a pre-nup, that is! 😀

When God entered into covenant with Abraham, He was saying to Abraham, “Everything I have is yours extending to your descendants in perpetuity,” and Abraham was saying to God, “Everything I have and that my descendants will ever have — including our very lives — is Yours in perpetuity.”

Abraham & Isaac at Mt. Moriah

Abraham & Isaac cartoon

(click image to enlarge)

Now we approach an Old Testament story where many people — quite a few of them theologians, I might add — simply can’t seem to get it right: the story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. I have heard more cockamamie, half-baked nonsense about this one story than any other passage in the entire Bible, other than the entire book of Job!

To establish some context, we find the account of God initiating His relationship with Abraham (Abram at the time) in Genesis 12, His establishment of a covenant relationship with Abraham in Chapter 17, and this specific story in Chapter 22.

Please note how Abraham didn’t quibble with God about the issue — he simply packed up his son and their accoutrements and headed off for Mt. Moriah.


Because he knew the requirements of a covenant.

We know what later transpired: as Abraham’s knife was descending to kill his son, the Lord stayed his hand and told him his willingness alone was sufficient to prove his faith in and obedience to the Lord. In this way, Abraham demonstrated he was willing to sacrifice his beloved son of God’s promise for his covenant partner.

This event, standing alone, has no historical context and therefore means virtually nothing, thus explaining why so many scholars — especially Jewish ones — come up with such ridiculous interpretations for it.

God Closes the Loop

That event’s historical context and its true significance surfaces about 2 millennia later when God repaid Abraham’s willingness in kind by actually sacrificing His only Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross — interestingly enough, in that selfsame location, give or take a few yards — and thereby purchase the redemption of Abraham’s descendants (the Jews) as well as all Gentiles who would accept His gift by faith.

This is why Christianity honors Abraham as the “father of our faith.”

God’s Judgment on Old Testament Heathen

The other nations of that era didn’t have a covenant with the Almighty. They were idol worshippers bowing down to the likes of Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech, and the like. Much of their worship included all sorts of sexual misbehavior and perversions, including temple prostitution, homosexuality, and bestiality (sex with animals).

Worshippers of Molech burned babies alive as part of their rituals. Nowadays, disciples of that same demon perform abortions, but that is a subject for another thread (not now, Cato, now is NOT the time!).

By the time the Israelites entered the Promised Land after being delivered from Egyptian bondage, many of these pagan city-states had been given over to such vile practices for so long the entire population had become infected with venereal diseases — including the animals! So to prevent the spread of these diseases and the practices which perpetuated them to the His people, God commanded the Israelites to destroy these cities and kill every man, woman, child, and animal to stamp out every vestige of their practices and the results of those practices.

Thus, at stroke, God executed judgment upon those nations for their false religions and perverse sexual behaviors, as well as preventing these practices and their public-health-disaster consequences from infecting His chosen people.

Covenant Breakers

The downside of a covenant is the penalty for breaking one is death.

A covenant breaker is mentioned throughout Scripture as the lowest of the low, one who is worthy of the harshest of judgments. That is why we see repeated instances of these kinds of judgments being levied upon the Israelites whenever they decided that some wooden, stone, or ceramic image or natural force was worthy of their worship instead of Almighty God -OR- whenever they took a dislike to whoever God had placed in charge at the time.

But even in these instances, God showed abundant mercy. In every case, He gave them repeated opportunities to repent of their idolatry and rebellion and return to Him.


God Loves Us

As 1 John 4:8,16 proclaims, God is love. For some unfathomable reason which still causes those of us who serve Him stand in total awe of Him, God really, really, REALLY loves us screwball human beings.

Because of His infinite patience and mercy, He takes an incredible amount of crap off of us in His efforts to bring about reconciliation. It’s not like He actually needs us because He has no needs — He is completely Self-sufficient and all His needs are met within the Godhead. But He goes to these extraordinary lengths to reach out to His creation because He is deeply, totally, and enthusiastically in love with each and every human being on this planet!

God’s #1 goal, His top priority, is bringing glory to Himself. He does this by reconciling mankind to Himself, bringing reconciliation between His followers, and physically healing us. He could have just written off mankind after The Rebellion in Eden and saved Himself an infinite amount of heartache resulting from the rejection and sins of gazillions of people. Yet throughout the Bible, we see Him mercifully extending opportunity after opportunity for people to turn to Him and away from their rebellion.

When the children of Israel were delivered from the oppression of Egyptian slavery, He was responding to His covenant with Abraham just discussed. Abraham’s descendants were suffering in bondage (God had actually prophesied this hundreds of years before to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-14), so God raised up an unlikely leader named Moses as His instrument to set them free.

Along the way, though God was judging Egypt for their idolatry and oppression of Israel, He gave Pharaoh 10 separate opportunities to repent and set the Israelites free. Each of the plagues was a simultaneous demonstration of His supreme power and the powerlessness of the false gods held near and dear by the Egyptians. At any point along the way, the pharaoh could have simply said, “OK, OK, I can take a hint!” and called it a day. But his stubbornness ended up costing him the life of his firstborn and the firstborn of every human and animal parent in Egypt. Eventually, his ego cost him his life and the lives of his entire army in the Red Sea.

Lapping Mt. Sinai

When Pharouah finally released the children of Israel, God essentially told them, “Such a deal I have for you! Trust and obey Me and I’ve got this great crib lined up for you where there’s an abundance of everything you’ll ever need or want.”

Not only were they set free, but the Egyptians literally paid them to leave by giving them all the gold, silver, precious jewels, and fabrics, etc. they had — simply for the asking! (where else do you think a bunch of impoverished ex-slaves got all the bling to build that big, fancy tent and its furniture out there in the desert not to mention that golden calf at Sinai?). This also was prophesied by God to Abraham 400-odd years prior to that in Genesis 15:13-14, by the way.

However, once they got to their first faith challenge at the banks of the Red Sea, their response was, “You just brought us out here to die!” (or words to that effect) rather than proclaiming God’s faithfulness as proven by His delivering them from Egypt. God supernaturally intervened and delivered them (you know the story: Moses raises stick, God parts sea, Israel crosses on dry land, Pharaoh plus his army stupidly follow them into seabed, God un-parts sea, Egyptian army takes terminal swimming lesson. Film at 11! 😀). Afterwards, the Israelites partied down on the other side, praising and thanking God.

A few days later, they ran into a spring with poisonous water. Instead of turning to God and declaring, “God you’ve delivered us from the Egyptians twice, so if you can do that, you can fix this water problem for us,” they repeated their earlier response of “You just brought us out here to die.” God then supernaturally cleaned up the water supply and promised them:

If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I AM the Lord who heals you.
Exodus 15:26 (emphasis mine)

Next, they ran short of food. Again, instead of trusting the Lord for a solution, they repeated what was rapidly becoming their mantra: “You just brought us out here to die.” He gave them manna to eat.

This process continued over a period of weeks. In each case, the Lord allowed them to experience a situation where they had to trust Him for the solution, and in every case, they responded in unbelief with the same old words, “You just brought us out here to die.”

Finally, when they responded in the same manner to the reports of the spies sent into the Promised Land, God essentially said, “Ok, that’s it! I’m done! According to your own words, be it done unto you: you will die in this wilderness and the next generation will inherit the land instead of you!”

Yet even while carrying out this judgment on them, the Word says their clothes and sandals didn’t wear out for the next 40-odd years and He continued to daily provide manna for their food, etc.

Modern Day Variants

Lest any of us possibly cop a ‘tude towards the Jews over this or any other matter reported in the Bible, the Church has done no better! We’re just as thick-headed and stiff-necked as they were!

Instead of openly rebelling and accusing God of trying to kill us, we do this: construct elaborate doctrinal excuses for our lack of faith in God’s Word, then blame God for our trials and calamities as some “higher good.” We thus excuse ourselves from our God-mandated responsibility for claiming His promises by faith to overcome those trials. So instead of saying “God just brought us out here to die!” we piously say, “God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours and he brought us out here to suffer so He could teach us how to be humble/trust Him more/etc.”


Thanks for reading!